Volunteers Clean Up Holly Oaks Cemetery in Pineville

A long-neglected cemetery in Pineville is getting some tender loving care from some volunteers.  ABC 31 News’ Joel Massey shows us the work that they are doing.

Nathan Martin pastor of Christian Challenge Church in Pineville said, “It’s definitely a feeling of fulfillment when you get to come out and do something that doesn’t benefit you at all but it does benefit the community it benefits the families of those who are buried here the memories of those who are here so you get a sense of community and a great sense of accomplishment in doing something good for others.”

Martin has been heading up a group to clean up Holly Oaks Cemetery that had been in need of care for some time.  He says it couldn’t be done without the volunteers.

“We’re so appreciative of all the volunteers that come.  We have a great group of people that come a lot of them from our church and from several other churches in the community that have bought into it.  And it’s so neat because they bring their own equipment.  They pay for their own supplies.  Nobody’s making any money off of this.  Everybody’s giving freely of their time, resources and their talents and it’s something that I hope blesses the community.”

The whole cemetery was grown up when they started, and Martin says it’s satisfying to see the change they made.

“Seeing the change from the way it was before ‘til now is so fulfilling. Sometimes we’ll stumble across a grave and you can tell hasn’t been see in who knows how many 30 40 50 years and we get to uncover it and see the headstone and find out the person was from the 1800s and here they are now their name can be seen and their story can be told. There are former slaves that are buried here.  There are people that fought in different wars that are buried here.  Some of them may have been forgotten and overlooked but now we’re able to show off their tombstones and honor their memories.”

At Holly Oaks Cemetery is the grave of Louis Berry the first African American attorney in Rapides Parish. He was instrumental in the civil rights movement so special attention is made each month to keep his grave clear.

The back of the headstone reads: “Attorney Louis Berry a social surgeon used the law as a scalpel to cut the malignancy of racism and discrimination to eliminate the cultural lags of slavery.”

Carlos Escalona is one of the volunteers.  He says the work honors those buried here.

“It feels good.  It’s showing respect the ones who’ve passed.  I’m pretty sure they would have loved the area being cut and cleaned.”

Escalona enjoys the fellowship with the people he works with.

“I know it says do not forsake the assembly of the saints, so I just enjoy being with my brothers and working beside them.”

Martin says they are always in need of more volunteers to work.

“We are so appreciative for all the volunteers but there is always room for more. If somebody is looking to do something that makes a difference in the community it’s not self-serving, there’s no one’s name being honored or lifted up.  If you want to do something that helps others come join us the third Saturday of every month here at Holly Oak Cemetery.”